This is Alexei again.  The day I came back from summer school, mom told me that I was being put in charge of making the golf reservations for our trip. I immediately began thinking about the last time I was put in charge of making reservations (when I reserved a table for dinner at THE WRONG RESTAURANT), but later realized that this would be a prime opportunity to redeem myself.

Since our Wailea golf plans were not in my hands, I was only responsible for setting up the other two rounds planned for this trip. I immediately called Kahili, my favorite course on the island, to book a tee time. I love the fact that when you call and mention a time you want to play, they always will have at least 4 alternates both before and after your requested time. Also it is very likely that if you have less than a foursome, they will still let the group go off without assigning you someone who makes your local pro look like a hack. Never good for the ego…

The great view from one of the tees at Kahili

What astounds me is how well the Kahili staff manage a busy, well-filled course. They do a wonderful job of getting people started on time, making sure they are playing at a consistent pace, and helping you pack after the round (they put the bags in the trunk for you). I feel like this organization must be run by someone from the German public transportation system to be so efficient…

For those who may have played here before, but not in the last 10 years, the course has changed. It was bought by a Japanese company about 8 years ago, who has since poured lots of money into redoing and maintaining the course.

The course itself is in very good shape. The bunkers actually have sand in them, the greens are nicely manicured, and the fairways are firm but not rock hard. Small things, but they are not always available at other courses on Maui. Duffer alert:   Kahili isn’t affected by the wind as much as King K. due to their lowered position on the hill, but it still plays a large part in determining which club you’re going to hit.

Beautiful, well tended greens

There are quite a few places on this course where you can get into some serious trouble, and I speak from first-hand experience. Kahili must have double the number of trees as King K (and trust me… I know them all), as well as a few water hazards which stretch the length of the tee box to the green. However, since every cart has GPS with a full color layout of the course, it is easy to see where the trouble is before you manage to hit into it. Staying out of the trouble is another matter.

Another reason I like Kahili is because it is the one course on the island where I am usually able to play a relatively decent round of golf. I know this will be the first course I call to book a round for our next trip.

May the Golf Gods be with you.

This is Alexei again. On my quest for finding the next golf course to play on our trip, I added a new phrase to my vocabulary… a reciprocal membership. I had no idea such a concept existed. I mean, if you belong to a country club, you can get your pro to contact another pro at a different country club and he will get you and 3 other players on for a small fee? Genius.

Having visited the island a million times (not to mention being stationed on Oahu for a few years as a Marine), Papa has been able to play pretty much every course on the island. Needless to say I was shocked when I found out that he too had never been able to play the only country club on the island. Luckily for us, this turned out to be the missing piece in the proverbial puzzle. After weeks of trying to find a 3rd course to play, Papa told me he was going to get us on at the King Kamehameha Golf Club.

Now, I assume the size of the bargaining chip in this reciprocal membership thing is proportional to the prestige of our home course. Needless to say, it took less than a week for Papa to call me and say that the head pro at his club was able to get myself, my uncle, and his friend on “King K.” without any hassle. I guess this is the way people treat you when they find out you belong to a world-class country club. Sweet.

All of this sounds fine and dandy right? Yeah, well my uncle’s friend told me 4 days before we were supposed to play that he asked one of the locals about the course, and the only comment he received was “be prepared.” Apparently the greens are killer and the wind slaps your ball down like the hand of God. I wasn’t too concerned, because I face these challenges every time I play Papa’s club, the only course where the greens are so fast that they actually have to slow them down for the professionals.

I should have been very, very worried.

Everything they say about King K is true. The greens have a mix of fast and slow bits all in one hole, and are close to unreadable. The wind, even at 10am, was strong enough to require two clubs up or down – depending on which way you were facing. The good news is there really isn’t much trouble to get into, since all the fairways are pretty open. However, whenever we DID see trouble, I somehow managed to hit in it.

I knew it was going to be a rough round when my 2nd shot on the par 5 first hole was heading straight at the pin, but hit a sprinkler head and bounced 50 feet behind the green, finally resting in the roots of a tree. To think that I would have been putting for an Eagle 3, when in reality, I finished with a double bogey 7.

The only thing that kept me going past hole 9 was the breathtaking view of Haleakala and the valley below. This course is a couple hundred feet higher than the neighboring public course Kahili, making the scenery even more spectacular than its sister course. Also, kudos to the greens keeping team. They keep this spectacular course in tip-top shape for all of its 50 members and their guests.  Amazing.

After finishing what turned out to be a very rough round, I was looking forward to dining in the restaurant located in the multi-million dollar Frank Lloyd Wright designed clubhouse. Since it was late,  we opted to get a bite to eat at Buzz’s Wharf on the way back to Ka’anapali.  Bad choice.   I ordered clam chowder, and a few hours later found  my choice rivaled my uncle’s decision to order lasagna in Ireland… I paid for it by sleeping most of the night in the bathroom.

All in all, if you can get past the hype, and are lucky enough to play this course, do it… Just accept the starter’s invitation to eat at the clubhouse after the round.

This is Alexei again. Today I played Makena North in Wailea, accompanied by my uncle and his friend . It is a short 45 minute drive from Ka’anapali provided you do not get stuck behind an “environmental truck” on the one lane highway to the middle of the island. As if the blistering 35mph pace we were driving wasn’t spine-tingling enough, the smell of manure and fertilizer wafting through the cabin of the convertible Mustang was so pungent that it successfully woke me up at 7 in the morning.

Once we arrived at the course – 20 minutes late – I noticed smoke coming out of our friend’s ears. I find it ironic that someone who has the reputation for being late to everything, because of an inherent lack of a sense of direction, would get upset at us. No worries though, as we found out from the starter 10 minutes later, the course has been dealing with some problems filling their reservation books. He mentioned that they only had 18 people booked to play the next day! Unfortunately after the first 4 holes I began to see why.

Don’t get me wrong, the course is in a beautiful location, and some of the holes have the most amazing views of Molokini, Kaho’olawe, and Lanai – but the greens keeping needs CPR, or a portion of the federal stimulus package. The ground was so wet that any ball, regardless of how high or low it was hit, would plug in the fairway. On the off chance that you had a nice lie, the divot made by the second shot would probably remove more grass than a shovel. I must have run out of divot mix by the 6th hole, and it’s no wonder they give you two or more wet towels to wipe off your clubs… I wouldn’t doubt that the cleaners had to use a gallon of bleach to clean my towel.

View from the green of the 13th hole at Makena

Now I really hate to rag on a golf course, especially one that worked as hard as Makena to make our round enjoyable. The cart lady who enjoyed flaunting her silicone chest, was seen on every other hole in case you ran out of refreshments. At the end of the round, the starter greets the players with the choice of a cold or hot towel scented with something that resembles a watermelon jolly rancher.

My recommendation after the round is to skip the 19th hole at the clubhouse and go to Jaws for your after-round grub. This food truck has the best fish tacos on the island (yes, I think they are better than the ones at Kimo’s).

Another view from Makena

Will I come back to this course?  I’m not sure.  There are plenty of other courses on that side of the island that are in much better shape, so at this point, I’ll have to say No.  Also for you seasoned Hawaiian travelers/golfers, the south course (the one that borders the ocean) is out of business. It was bought by a development company who ran out of money during the recession, and now 14 of the holes have been left alone and have weeds in excess of 5 feet growing on them. However they are planning on opening up the nicest 9 holes to make a 9 hole course sometime in the future, so stay tuned.

Just be sure to ask for a couple of buckets of divot mix before starting your round.

Hello readers, this is Alexei.

Never in a million years did I think mom would ask me to write an entry for her blog. Turns out I couldn’t have been  more wrong. I can’t quite picture myself being one to gossip about inappropriate beach wear, discussing the best spa treatments (everyone knows the answer to that is the hot stone massage), and I certainly refuse to partake in shopping for new art and carpet for the condo… that’s my parents job. Fortunately for me, I instead got to play golf this vacation, and a lot of it. Even though my game was not in tip-top form, I was still able to enjoy it… most of the time.

I have played my fair-share of courses on the island, so here is an abridged version of the courses I’ve either heard of or played sometime in the past.

Ka’anapali: They have two courses, the Royal and the Kai which stretch from our condo complex all the way to Whalers village. I have never played either of these courses mainly because of the ridiculous price for two courses that look like a bad muni ($235 for the Royal and $195 for the Kai), and the fact that any stray hook or slice (depending on which side of the highway you are on) will result in a 10 car pileup. I wonder if that would constitute a free drop?

The best part of this golf “resort” is their driving range package deals. They sell 6 or 10 bucket packages with the 10 costing $65 and the 6 around $40. They are open from sunrise to sunset, however they do close the range from 12-1 and whenever they need to retrieve the balls (the cart doesn’t have a metal cage). Note: If you drive longer than 250 yards, you won’t be able to use your driver on the range without the guy in the shack freaking out. I’ve found sticking with the 9-iron keeps you out of trouble.

Kapalua: High handicappers beware, the Plantation course will tear you to pieces. This course has got it all: high winds, frequent rain showers, plenty of weeds and places to get into trouble, and menacing greens. Although, I would expect nothing less from the course that hosts the annual Mercedes Championship. I was lucky enough to play this course 6 years ago, and my most vivid memory was having to go into the pro shop after 9 holes to buy more balls for myself and my dad… it was that bad. I could probably manage it now, but that is after many, many lessons and 2 years of high school golf. I have not had a chance to play the other two courses, the Village and the Bay (I assume they are easier than the Plantation).

Pukalani Country Club: Don’t be fooled by the “country club” facade, as this is just your typical municipal course. At 80 dollars, it is not terribly cheap, but still good value for the money… or so it used to be.  It’s a good course to visit if you’re new to golf, or not at the top of your game.  Beware – there are a lot of hacks on this course, and if you get behind a foursome enjoying way to many adult beverages, you could be in for a very long day.

Dunes at Maui Lani: I have not had a chance to play this course, but from what I can see from the highway, it looks pretty nice. I’ve heard from sources that it’s a relatively easy course.  Yeah, I’ve heard that before.  Still, I look forward to playing it at some future date.

That is all for now. Stay tuned for other course reviews.